Scam Artists Prey on Fla. Hurricane Victims

February 8, 2005

Officials from Florida’s State Emergency Response Team (SERT) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are cautioning Floridians to be on the look out for scam artists pretending to be employed by FEMA or other government agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

One fraudulent scheme involves scam artists approaching homeowners and claiming to be with the Corps. They are requesting money up front to repair roofs and telling victims that their insurance money is coming soon. The Operation Blue Roof program managed by the Corps for FEMA to assist storm victims by installing plastic sheeting on damaged roofs ended on Nov. 12, 2004.

“The Corps currently has personnel out measuring roofs to verify square footage on roofs that have already been covered,” said Craig Fugate, state coordinating officer for SERT. “The best way to verify authorized FEMA or Corps personnel is by checking their laminated photo identification card, which they are required to wear at all times. The Corps shirt and signs on vehicles are not sufficient proof.”

Homeowners should insist on seeing proper identification when approached by someone offering to perform repair work such as repairing roofs, repainting or making structural repairs. They should then require proof of operating licenses and proof of insurance.

“Unfortunately there are unscrupulous people posing as FEMA or Corps personnel,” said Bill Carwile, federal coordinating officer. “Consumers should remember that under no circumstances are FEMA or Corps representatives allowed to accept money. All FEMA assistance is provided free of any charges.”

FEMA also urges homeowners to never make full payment to contractors up front, do not sign over insurance settlement checks to contractors, and do not make the final payment until the job is finished.

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